It has been a bad month for the U.S. Constitution in New Rochelle. As we all know the Gadsden Flag was voted to remain down yesterday by a predictable vote of 5-2 down party lines. More disturbing than the act of taking down the flag itself was the reasoning used to justify it. This is the mistaken idea that, somehow the 239 year old Gadsden Flag is the “Tea Party” flag thus warranting the act of censorship because people (primarily Councilman Jared Rice) took offense to it.
Councilman Rice thinks that the constitution grants his office the authority to determine what form of expression is permitted based on what “Offends” him and others who are equally ill informed on the concept of “Unalienable Rights”, and the true meaning of the Gadsden Flag. Just so we are all on the same page let us examining the text of the first amendment to the bill of rights.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
When the founders stated that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, I think it is safe to assume they also meant the state legislatures and City Councils. The first amendment does NOT state “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, EXCEPT speech people find offensive.” How then does Councilman Rice believe he has this authority; when it is not only NOT granted to the government but expressly PROHIBITED by the Constitution?
If we applied this kind of logic universally anything could be censored by our government officials based on their personal arbitrary whims or that of a majority. If we accept this premise then The United States is not a nation of LAWS but rather a nation ruled by the arbitrary wills of men. What Jared Rice fails to understand about Unalienable rights is that they are precisely that; UNALIENABLE.
They cannot be taken away; they are bestowed upon each person individually by their creator. That was the novel Idea that set mankind free from the chains of bondage and servitude for the first time in his entire history; it is still today the highest ideal and aspiration of mankind. Granted it was not applied universally at the beginning of our nation but that idea grew and extended to every man or woman in this nation regardless of their color, religion, or political beliefs.
What people like Councilman Rice have done is set us back in the application of these Rights in our relationships with one another. The rights that you deny to your fellow man you ultimately deny to yourself, since we all have the same rights as individuals we cannot deprive another of their rights without depriving ourselves.
Many things are offensive to many people; does this mean Government can now decide what approved speech is and what is not so long as the majority agrees? What if Majority opinion changes? The entire point of a constitutional republic is so we may have a standard of law that we can all live under, without the fear of being the next persecuted group.
Councilman Rice asked the council and everyone at yesterday’s meeting to reflect on the Pledge of allegiance that they recite at every public hearing. I have to wonder if he or the other 4 council members are really reflecting on the true meaning of the words in that pledge or are they empty vessels in which they can put any meaning they like? Lastly let us look at that pledge.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
It States to the “REPUBLIC for which it stands”, you know the system of government where the rights of the minority are protected against the will of the majority?
“One Nation under God” since people have different concepts of God and religious liberty is part of the first amendment this must mean under God’s Law or “Natural Law” hence the term “creator endowed rights”.
Now the word “Indivisible”. It is Councilman Rice who is seeking to divide his constituents based on their perceived group identity rather than inform them about the meaning of the Gadsden flag which is a symbol for the rights of the individual which he and his constituents possess. Instead he seeks to divide them based on collective identities rather than unite them in the one thing every man has in common. His Individual Rights that come from our common humanity.
“With Liberty and Justice for all” Councilman Rice’s actions are an attack against the Liberty and Justice of all men, since what you deny your brother you also deny yourself. Justice is determined by natural law, not the opinion of one man, a group of men or a nation of men. How wise is he that he can decide what constitutes as “Liberty and Justice for all” when he clearly fails to understand the very meaning of those words?
I call on Councilman Rice and other members of City Council to take a trip to the Thomas Paine memorial, to read what is inscribed thereon, to visit the cottage and read the pamphlet “Common Sense” that lit the brush fires of liberty in the minds of the men and women who founded our nation. After all, this should be common sense for every American, sadly it is not.